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Verterion Announces Partnership with RingCentral

We could not be happier to announce our newest #cloud technology partner, RingCentral to the Verterion team. This addition to our portfolio means we are able to harness the power of the cloud to help today’s modern, mobile businesses communicate faster, smarter, and more effectively than ever before.  For more information – see http://www.verterion.com/services/ringcentral/

Verterion Announces Partnership With 3CX

With our long history of adopting technologies that our customers need, we are excited to announce that today Verterion has become the latest 3CX partner. We are able to sell, service and support all levels and versions of 3CX.

3CX is one of the most fully featured VoIP PBX systems available. In addition to standard VoIP PBX features, 3CX includes many features out of the box that typically come as extra cost add-ons to other systems. Features such as:

  • Multiple Clients (Phone, Web, Mobile (iPhone and Android)
  • Ad-hoc Video/Web Conferencing
  • Live Chat Website Integration
  • CRM Integration
  • Hotel Functions
  • Call Recording
  • Voicemail Transcription

Come visit our website at http://www.verterion.com/services/3cx/ to find out more information.

Or, if you cant wait . . .

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD OR SIGNUP ONLINE AND GET STARTED TODAY

We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with 3CX!

Verterion Announces New VoIP Service

Verterion has partnered with Vitelity to offer reliable, cost effective VoIP service to our customers.  Services include SIP trunking, DID numbers, eFax services and SMS services.

Vitelity is an industry leader in VoIP products and services, so they are a natural fit with Verterion’s consulting services.  We are proud of our new partnership and look forward to continued success with them!

Click here for information on pricing and services available.

Vicidial vs PBX In Call Center Operations

Deciding which platform to use to run a call center is key.  The phones, after all, are what bring in the money in a call center.  The Vicidial open source call center software is SPECIFICALLY designed for call centers.  PBX phone systems, however, are more “general use”.  That is they can perform many of the same call routing functions, but in a more general way.  Many call center owners will try to use traditional PBX phone systems in their call centers, but often find the features limited for what they actually want to do.

In this article, we will discuss the various similarities and differences between Vicidial and PBX systems as they relate to the operation of a call center

Components and Call Flow

Arguably the largest difference between Vicidial and most PBX systems is the components required to make the call center, and the flow of the calls.  PBX-based systems are more complicated because they use separate systems are are difficult to integrate with other data systems.  Vicidial is designed to integrate both telephone calls and data systems together from the start.  Lets take a look at each of these separately.

Components

In a PBX-based call center (whether inbound or outbound), typically you will need:

  • The PBX server or appliance for call processing
  • Telephone handsets (most often with headsets)
  • Computers for data access and entry
  • A server that contains customer data about who might be calling in or who you are supposed to call

The key thing to note here is that there is a MINIMAL level of integration by design (as shown in the figure below).  Inbound calls will allow the PBX to ring the phones separately and, in most cases, requires the agent to manually look up a phone number.  Or on outbound calls, require the agent to look up a number to be dialed and dial the numbers on the phone manually (or possibly use a click-to-dial software) before connecting the call.  Suffice to say there is a lot of MANUAL work to be done by the agents with the separated components in a PBX-based call center.

Additionally, the primary interface to the phone system for the agent is the phone.

PBX Call Center

PBX Call Center Components

In a Vicidial-based call center,

Vicidial Call Center

Vicidial-Based Call Center

Call Flow

Another big difference between PBX-based call centers and Vicidial-based call centers is the way calls are routed to agents.  In PBX-based systems, often the logic is limited to simply calls coming in and ringing a group of phones in a specific pattern.  Most PBX systems can apply “Weight” to individual phones (note not “people”, but “phones”) to allow specific phones to answer calls with a higher priority than others.  But that’s just about where the logic stops.  It’s very difficult for an inbound call to be routed with advanced logic.  And with PBX systems, outbound calls are pretty much “pick up the phone and dial the number”.

However, with Vicidial, a VERY large number of customizable advanced call flow functions are available for both inbound and outbound calling logic.  For example, to have a call routed to a specific agent or group of agents, based on the geographic area they came from, who their “area rep” is, the call routing criteria looked up from an external source, filter out unwanted inbound calls and redirect them to another source, automatically NOT call someone based on the disposition of the last call (or route it somewhere specific).  These are just some of the default logic pieces.  Functions are also opened to allow custom call routing routines to be written that haven been thought of, that might be required for a specific call center.

Agent Performance

A key metric for the effectiveness and proper operation of any call center is agent performance.  This metric can mean a lot of different things depending on the call center, but in a general sense, it means how effective the agent is at doing their job, i.e. handling phone calls and the data operations that go with them.  While we will get to the discussion of measuring agent performance with reporting in the next section, we would like to mention just one primary fact here: time.  In a “best practices” installation, agents do not pick up a ringing “phone” – the call simply “pops” into an established web session and the agent sees a “live call” on their screen and hears a sound in their ear.  All telephony actions are routed at the same time as the data and handled by the SERVER and the agent has little choice of which calls to answer.  This primary benefit of this is that agents answer calls QUICKER, and operate as a TEAM to answer calls.  Additionally, customers will go from waiting 15-30 seconds for someone to answer a ringing phone to 5-10 seconds maximum.

Based on our implementation gathering statistics over the past few years, for those call centers that have switched from a PBX-based call center to Vicidial, some interesting agent performance statistics have been found (these are averages):

  • Average answer time reduced from 30 seconds to 12 seconds (60% reduction)
  • Average calls per day handled increased 25%
  • Volume of outbound manual calls made increased 15%
  • Volume of outbound auto dialed calls made increased 95% (most PBX systems don’t have an auto-dialer – those that do are low performance)

Reports

Reports are extremely important to a call center.  They allow call center managers to ensure the center is performing at its maximum efficiencies.  One of the LARGEST strengths of Vicidial over a PBX is the sheer amount of call center data that can be gathered from the system because of its feature set and its tight integration of data and telephony.  In a general sense (and depending on the make and model of PBX system) the majority of the reports gathered from PBX systems are call-based and extension-based.  For example, you can see how many calls came in to a certain phone number, and to which EXTENSION they went to, and how many calls were answered within a specific amount of time.

While Vicidial can also see this information, it also adds MUCH more information to this.  Because dispositions are recorded at the end of each call as to the nature or result of the call, you can track how many calls of what TYPE came to a specific phone number, thus tracking sales percentages by phone number, or break out calls in even more detail.

Additionally, there are reports included by default for things such as:

  • Inbound calls per date range (including queue destinations grouping phone numbers together and disposition summaries)
  • Outbound calls per date range (including grouping disposition results)
  • Agent reporting by agent and disposition
  • Agent sales reporting
  • Hourly volume breakdowns
  • Server usage performance
  • Agent fronter/closer reporting
  • Outbound list calling reports
  • Outbound list calling performance
  • Timeclock reporting
  • Agent activity detail (login/logout/pause time and type coding)
  • Individual carrier and server performance (in multi-carrier and multi-server systems)

And those are just the default report CATEGORIES – there are at least 20 default reports – each of which can be automatically run and emailed each day if necessary.

Additionally – because the reporting data comes from a SQL-based database, you can create custom reports or dashboards using any number of the dozens of desktop or web based reporting tools available.  It is also possible to integrate dashboards from the call center data and other SQL-based CRM and ERP systems to get integrated performance metrics.

Overall Expenses

This is where things get a bit more complex.  It comes down to what type of call center you run as well as the size of it.  Some call centers simply can’t be done with traditional PBX systems (I.E. automated dialing).  For the purposes of discussion, we’ll keep it fairly simple to the “up front” costs of hardware and installation, as well as the ongoing costs of administration and maintenance.  We’ll assume that fixed costs like computers and software, as well as variable costs like labor and telephony costs should be the same.

Hardware and Installation

In a traditional PBX systems, you would have a PBX server and individual telephone handsets for each agent (as shown in the diagram earlier in this article).  If new, IP telephones are typically around $100 (on the low end) and can run up to $250 for higher end phones.  But, the expense doesn’t stop there.  Most call centers for efficiency’s sake, will have each agent have a headset.  The unfortunate part of this is that headsets for IP telephones get expensive quickly.  They cost as much, if not more, than the phones (in the range of $75-$200, depending on features of the headset).  And remember, this is PER AGENT.  So each agents telephone setup could run (on average) in the area of $200.  In a small call center of 10 agents – that would be $2000!.  That is not including the PBX server.

A PBX server is typically scaled according to the number of calls and phones attached to it, but its monolithic (meaning that its ONE server).  You  must choose a server that will meet a call center’s needs not only now, but in foreseeable future as well, since upgrading the server means replacing it completely, which is very expensive.

Finally, with respect to installation, not only does the server need to be installed, but each phone needs to have cabling to the network, which can provide challenges.  In all fairness, many of the phones provide “passthrough” for the network connections for ease of installation, but its still an extra step.  Additionally, best practices dictate they have their own network cables and switches.  Either way, it adds extra complexity and costs.

Vicidial on the other hand, works much differently.  The only telephony requirement is a USB headset (quality ones can be found for <$35) and a software phone, which are freely downloadable from the Internet, be installed on the agents computer.  These components working together provide the audio connection to Vicidial.  Vicidial handles the call routing to the agents.  Its straightforward and simple to install.

The other unique thing about Vicidial’s architecture is that it can be easily scaled.  You can start with a single server, and as your need for more calls and more agents grows, you can simply add more servers to handle the demand without completely reinstalling the system.

Administration and Maintenance

Here is where the playing field between the two is more level.  Administration, or more to the point, what we call “moves, adds, and changes”, is not too difficult on either platform.  The major difference, however, is that in PBX systems, you administrate PHONES.  In Vicidial systems, you administrate AGENTS.  You must keep in mind that calls are routed to phones in PBX systems, and agents in Vicidial.   When a new person is hired, on a PBX system, you must figure out which desk/phone they are sitting at and they must stay there in order for call center statistics to be accurate.  In Vicidial, on the other hand, an agent can log in at any station, but the calls and statistics will follow the user.  And when new people are hired, you just keep creating users, and their statistics follow them.

The other area where the systems are similar is in backups.  Most IP PBX systems use FTP to backup configuration information as well as system recordings and voicemails.  Vicidial is no exception.  All that is required is to have an FTP server to send the backups to on a regular basis.

Summary

Overall, a PBX and Vicidial are used for vastly different purposes.  And while a PBX system CAN be used for a call center, Vicidial is a much more efficient and scalable choice for a call center.  PBX systems are best used for managing the day-to-day telephone traffic of an office.

Using Digium Phones with FreePBX Systems With the DPMA Module

There are a multitude of VoIP phones that can be used with FreePBX.  However, one of the best additions to the FreePBX family of support phones are the Digium brand of phones.  Digium, as you may already know, is the prime supporter of the Asterisk Telephony Engine that FreePBX runs on.  They have developed phones specifically to take advantage of all the features of their commercial version of Asterisk in their Switchvox PBX.  FreePBX now has the ability to use these Digium phones natively through the use of the Digium Phone Module for Asterisk (DPMA).

While it IS possible to connect Digium phones to any Asterisk-based system through simple web-based configuration of SIP parameters, this requires manual configuration of each phone.  Once enabled, DPMA allows automatic configuration of most phone parameters.   Historically, provisioning phones has been slightly difficult, because it required a degree of manual configuration of the phone (configuration server for example).  Digium phones can search for phone servers on the local subnet using multicast DNS (mDNS).   Additionally, the phone has NATIVE applications that can control how the phones interact with the PBX.

It requires Asterisk versions 1.8 or above along with a Free License (available from http://www.digium.com)

Digium D65

An Example of a Digium Phone (Model D65 Shown)

More information on the DPMA module for FreePBX and Asterisk can be found at The Digium Asterisk Wiki.  If you need help installing the DPMA module or planning for a Digium Phone installation, please contact us or email us at info@verterion.com

Open Source Call Center Platform Comparison

Let’s face it, its expensive to start and run a call center.  Open Source-based call center software is very popular because of its low cost of implementation when compared to commercial options.  In this article we compare the top Open Source call center platforms that are available.  To be absolutely clear, this means a complete platform.  NOT just the ability to make and take calls.  The system must have an agent interface to manage the call and data, an admin interface to design call flows, system setup, and to report reports,  as well a live dashboard of some sort to view call center activity in real time.

We’ll briefly cover the primary benefits and drawbacks of each and show brief examples of the “look” of each of the primary functions just listed.

Vicidial

Vicidial is arguable has the largest installed user base of any Open Source-based call center platform.  In fact, it is so well designed that many of the other of those discussed in this article are actually BASED on the code written in Vicidial.  This will be very apparent when you look at the graphics if any call center is based on Vicidial.  Typically the agent interface is the main component that is changed and the admin interface remains basically the same with only a few minor changes.

Vicidial is the leader in open source call center software for many reasons.  First of all, it just WORKS.  Once set up, it is not uncommon for Vicidial-based systems to work for years without intervention or service.  Additionally, it contains all the most popular features necessary to run an effective call center, such as auto-dialing, inbound routing, caller ID management, live dashboards, agent statistics, call recording and so on.  Also, it can scale to hundreds (in some cases up to 1000+) users with multiple, redundant servers providing 99.99% uptime (assuming similar redundant networking and power hardware).

The biggest complaint people have (and really the only complain of significance) of Vicidial is the “look” of its agent interface.  It could use some “prettying up”.

Below you can see examples of the agent interface, the administration interface, and the live “Wallboard” screens that come with Vicidial.

Agent Inferface Admin Interface Live Dashboard
vicidial agent interface Vicidial admin interface vicidial live dashboard

 

OSDial

OSDial is one of the “forks” of the Vicidial code, is OSdial (www.osdial.com).  It was designed to make the Vicidial interface simpler and a bit easier to use and a bit less “clunky”.  It maintains the same basic code base and most of the same functions as Vicidial (inbound, outbound automatic, and manual call handling, reporting, etc).  Therefore, if you are familiar with the operation of Vicidial, you can administrate and operate an OSDial implementation.

However, because of the “improvements” made, there are some drawbacks.  First of all, the code base, while based on Vicidial, is maintained separately.  Therefore, updates to the Vicidial code don’t make it to the OSDial system until quite a bit later (often times up to a year or more – if at all).  Additionally, some functions may be left out and left as the Vicidial “defaults” in hopes that you will fall into the 90% of customers who don’t need to change those settings.  If you do, you would have to manually modify config files, or database settings, or other items (a difficult proposition at best).

Below you can see examples of the agent interface, the administration interface, and the live “Wallboard” screens that come with OSdial.  Note how they compare with Vicidial’s (shown earlier in this article.)

Agent Interface Admin Interface Live Dashboard
osdial agent interface osdial admin interface osdial live screen

 

GOAutodial

GOAutodial (http://www.goautodial.org/)  is yet another attempt to put a “pretty face” on Vicidial.  However, it actually includes a few additional utilities for server management that make it a more rounded platform (like database management tools, and other server management tools).  Additionally, the “live wallboard” is much more polished than other flavors.  It also offers wizard-based configuration for many of the more common tasks, like configuring campaigns, which makes administration easier for call center managers.

It still suffers from the same basic problem as OSDial.  That is, it is based on the Vicidial code base, and as such, it can’t make updates until the Vicidial code base does.  And once Vicidial releases code, GOAutodial must test it and integrate its code into its own system.  But, again, it still doesn’t have as many features or the quick release of features, or broad support based that Vicidial does.

 

Agent Interface Admin Interface Live Dashboard
goautodial agent interface goautodial admin interface goautodial live report

Asterisk With QueueMetrics

Queuemetrics (http://www.queuemetrics.com) is a unique piece of software in this category.  It is designed primarily to work with Asterisk queue based systems and as such, mainly handles INBOUND call distribution and reporting.  However, there are add-ons to enable it to function as an outbound call center as well.  Another difference is that it is one of the few call center platforms that is not based on the Vicidial core engine.  It uses Asterisk’s own queue management and tracking, then expands on it with a database connection and agent tools.

Agent Interface Admin Interface Live Dashboard
Queuemetrics Agent Interface Queuemetrics Admin Interface Queuemetrics Realtime Wallboard

 

Vicidial Avatar Soundboard Feature

The Vicidial open source call center platform in its latest release (Version: 2.12-11 Build: 161111-1646) has included a feature long awaited by off shore outsourced call centers: An Avatar Soundboard.

For those not familiar with Avatar call center software, the concept is simple.  Essentially, instead of a live operator speaking directly to a customer on the phone, instead the operator will play pre-recorded sound files back to the customer on the phone.  This is useful in many cases, including agents that may understand english speakers, but have thick accents  that are difficult to understand by customers over the phone.  Additionally, by using Avatar agents, recorded responses are universal in voice and tone and thus can be planned in advance.  Often, Avatar campaigns are used as “opener” campaigns to dial through bulk leads to qualify them, before transferring them to closers.

Vicidial’s Avatar Soundboard (shown below) can be configured with pre-recorded responses, organized on a single page that allows the agent to simply click on the appropriate response to play the associated sound back to a customer.

Vicidial Soundboard

A Sample Vicidial Soundboard in the Agent Interface

 

If you’d like assistance setting up a Vicidial Avatar Soundboard system, or any other Vicidial related item, please contact us or email us at info@verterion.com

Verterion Announces Vicidial Integration For Hubspot CRM

Verterion has just completed design and implementation of its first integration of Vicidial with Hubspot CRM.  This integration connector automatically:

  • Logs agent calls in Hubspot
  • Records call dispositions in Hubspot
  • Post individual call notes to Hubspot
  • Play Vicidial recordings from within Hubspot
  • Posts call events in contact timeline

hubspot call

An example of a call sent to Hubspot CRM from Vicidial

Additionally, if you are using the Chrome browser, there are plugins available that we can use to implement click-to-call functionality.  If you currently use Hubspot as your CRM and Vicidial for your call center, please contact us today at info@verterion.com

 

How To Convert Audio Files for Use With Asterisk

Although Asterisk has many built-in audio files, most often you will want to have custom audio files for prompts for your auto attendants.  You can either record them using the phone system itself (often times this can be somewhat confusing), or you can record them with conventional computer recording software and convert them into the proper format.

Most recording software has the ability to record audio, then export it into the proper format that the phone system will use.  For Asterisk-based systems, this depends on the CODEC you are using.  90% of the time, the g711 uLAW codec is used, which means the sound file must be an 8kHz, mono, 16-bit audio file.

The best way to convert your audio files for use with Asterisk is to use Digium’s online audio file converter, located here: http://my.digium.com/en/products/ivr/audio-converter/ 

Instructions are provided on the web page.  Once you download the file, you can upload it onto your Asterisk server and use it in your prompts.

If you have any questions about how to use audio files, or how to convert and install custom prompts or audio files, please contact us at info@verterion.com

Cool Asterisk Add-ons

Out of the box, Asterisk based systems have most, if not all, of the functionality that you need in a PBX or call center system.  However, there are some features that people consider to be “not up to par”, don’t fit their needs, or features that just simply don’t exist that a particular company simply must have.  Here are some software packages you probably didn’t know were out there for Asterisk-based systems.  In this article, we’ll discuss these Add-ons by category.

Operator Panel Software

An Operator Panel is any software that can be used by a phone operator or receptionist (or even every user on the system) to manage calls.  It typically shows all the phones on the system, whether they are on the phone, who they might be talking to, and allows call transfer and hold operations.  This software typically takes the place of a “button module” attached to a phone that would perform the same activities.

Flash Operator Panel 2

Flash Operator Panel 2 (or FOP2 as it more commonly known) is one of the most popular add-ons because it is free for < 15 extensions and for unlimited extensions it has a maximum price with all the bells and whistles of $80 (as of the writing of this article)

fop2

FOP2 Web Interface

More information about FOP2, including a full feature list can be found at https://www.fop2.com/

iSymphony Operator Panel

Another very popular browser-based operator panel is iSymphony.  It has similar features to FOP2 (including a few extra) and has a free version as well (only allows one login and shows no queues), but has quite a few more features and a bit more “polished” look to it.  The commercial version is much more scalable but still cost effective.

isymphony

iSymphony Web Interface

More information about iSymphony can be found at http://www.getisymphony.com

Call Center Operations and Management

Because Asterisk can handle call traffic so well, there is a whole category of add-ons specifically designed for managing calls in a call center environment.  Typically the packages include call reporting, call flow management, agent management, agent login/logout interface, and a “live wallboard” to see call center performance in real time.  In some cases, they are primarily reporting-only tools, but still add a lot of value and insight into the operation of an Asterisk-based call center.  Here are some of the most popular call center add-ons.

ViciDIAL

Vicidial is the most often used and most popular call center software for Asterisk.  While it is a whole set of scripts and web pages (and really a product all its own), it is still at it’s core, an add-on for Asterisk.  We do specialized work in ViciDIAL as well as other software packages, but since it is so popular, we get a large amount of requests for support and integration work, as well as dedicate several articles to it on our website.

vicidial live dashboard

Vicidial Live Dashboard

For more information about ViciDIAL, see http://www.vicidial.org

QueueMetrics

QueueMetrics is a unique software in that it can be used not only for simple queue reporting, but also as a call center queue management system for inbound (and to a lesser degree outbound) call management.  It can be configured to see agent realtime data, connect to a CRM, collect IVR response data, and many other statistical information a standard reporting package does not gather.

queuemetrics

Queuemetrics Call Center Monitoring

For more detailed information about QueueMetrics, visit https://www.queuemetrics.com/

QueXS

While the other products in this category are specific to running an entire call center, this software is specific to operating and managing a specific type of call center.  Specifically, it is designed to manage survey campaigns.  The entire system is set up to allow agents to call prospects, execute a survey of some sort, and gather the results.  Managers can then run reports on the results as well as specific agent performance.

quexs admin interface

Quexs Survey Web Admin Interface

More information about QueXS can be found at https://quexs.acspri.org.au/

 

Call Center Stats

Call Center Stats is another software package developed by the same people who developed FOP2 and CDR Stats (discussed later in this article).  It is comprehensive in showing the inbound queue statistics for inbound and outbound calling for agents.  Statistics such as drop rate, number of calls, service level, hourly performance, etc are all available in a nice graphical format.  There are both free and paid versions available.

asternic call center stats

Asternic Call Center Stats Web Interface

For more information about Call Center Stats, visit http://www.asternic.net/

 OrderlyStats

OrderlyStats is another call center performance tool (very similar to “Call Center Stats” by Asternic) that provides all performance data, as well as live statistics about the operation of a call center.  It will provide the inbound performance metrics by queue, by agent, as well as a “live” wallboard that can be put on a TV display in the call center to show “at-a-glance” call center activity.

OrderlyStats

OrderlyStats Web Interface

For more information, please visit http://www.orderlyq.com/solutions/orderlystats

PBX Management

Operator panels, in general, are used to control what happens within an Asterisk PBX.  Products in this category, however, are designed primarily to display what is actually happening with ALL the functions of the PBX.  For example, who is on the phone, what channels are in use, processor utilization, and so on.

Let’s take a quick look at two of the more popular.

MonAST

MonAST is a web-based software package that can be installed right on your PBX that will give you a tab-based view of all the functions of your PBX in a “live” view.  Additionally it gives you a command line interface (CLI) that you can use to do limited control commands directly with Asterisk.

monast

MonAST Web Interface

You can find more information about the features of MonAST at https://dagmoller.github.io/monast/

AstChannelsLive

AstChannelsLive is a Windows-based program that will show you primarily a LIVE version of all channels in use (SIP, Analog, PRI, etc).  In addition, the latest version will show you a wallboard of queue activity.  It provides basic functionality, but is pretty powerful at the same time.  There is also a mobile version of the product.

astchannelslive

AstChannelsLive

More information about this software can be found at http://www.astchannelslive.com/index.html

Software Integration

Of major interest to owners of phone systems is the integration of their phones to other software, typically Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs that track their customer interactions.  There is a great deal of software that readily facilitates these types of integrations as well as other more advanced integrations.

PHP-AGI

The first and possibly most powerful integration piece is the PHP-AGI library.  What this allows you to do is write special code in PHP that will directly interface with an Asterisk server via the Asterisk Gateway Interface (AGI) programming language to manage call flow.  With it you can use PHP functions to initiate calls, transfer calls, monitor calls, and just about all functions of the Asterisk PBX.  You will have to be familiar with PHP programming as well as

More information about PHP-AGI can be found at http://phpagi.sourceforge.net/  If you need information about AGI – check out the informational resources on Wikipedia at https://www.voip-info.org/wiki-Asterisk+AGI

Zoho Phonebridge for Asterisk

Zoho is a leading web-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  It allows businesses to track customers and every contact that is made between the business and the customers, including emails and phone calls.  Zoho Phonebridge is a plugin for Zoho that allows an Asterisk-based PBX to speak to the CRM and display customer information on the screen when a phone call comes in, as well as allow “click-do-dial” functions for Zoho and call logging of each call.

zoho phonebridge

Zoho With Phonebridge for Asterisk

 

More information about Zoho PhoneBirdge can be found at https://www.zoho.com/crm/help/zoho-phonebridge/asterisk-avaya-elastix.html

Activa

Activa is a very important component for Windows software users.  It is a TAPI driver for Asterisk.  That means you can initiate phone calls through the TAPI software interface on your computer (various Windows CRM software programs use this – like Outlook) as well as do “screen pops” based on inbound calls.

activa settings

Activa Settings Window

More information about Activa and the downloads can be found at http://activa.sourceforge.net/index.html

Feature Add-Ons

The last category of add-ons are those that expand existing functions of Asterisk, but add more capabilities outside of those that already exist.

Speech Recognition for Asterisk

By default, Asterisk has the ability to do Text-to-Speech (TTS).  That is, convert any text in the dialplan into machine-spoken (or in some cases-prerecorded female sound file) language.  However, out of the box, the reverse cannot be done.  Asterisk does not have the capability, without additional help, to recognize the spoken word and recognize it (e.g. Answering “Yes” or “No” to an IVR prompt or saying the name of the person they want to transfer to).

There are two primary speech recognition engines that are often use – “Speech Recognition for Asterisk (SRA)” and “Mojolingo RubySpeach”.  Each has their benefits and downsides.  SRA uses the Google speech recognition engine and Mojolingo RubySpeak API has a company doing technical support for it.

The information for the related API’s can be found at the following URL’s:

Speach Recognition for Asterisk (SRA) – http://zaf.github.io/asterisk-speech-recog/

MojoLingo RubySpeach – http://mojolingo.com/open-source/

A2Billing for Asterisk

A2Billing is a unique add-on for Asterisk that turns it Asterisk into a hosted VoIP billing solution.  Essentially, you could put an A2Billing server in place and re-selling SIP dial tone to other Asterisk servers and maintain separate clients, billing plans, etc.  There are even calling card functions that allow you to make pre-paid calling cards and bill for them.

A2Billing Portal Screenshot

A2Billing Main Portal

There are hundreds of features for A2billing.  For a complete list, visit http://www.asterisk2billing.org/

Oreka Call Recording

In large call centers there is often a need to record not just a few calls but hundreds (possibly thousands) of calls.  For this it is often necessary to have a separate call recording appliance for this purpose.  There is a popular open-source software that does just this, and it is called Oreka.  It sits right in the stream of all calls and records the stream of audio data to a file and makes a searchable database of call recordings.

Oreka Admin Interface

Oreka Call Recording Admin Interface

For detailed information about Oreka, please visit. http://oreka.sourceforge.net/

Asternic CDR Reports

In Asterisk versions with a web-based GUI (FreePBX, Elastix, etc), they often include a basic Call Detail Reporting (CDR) search function.  Unfortunately because of how Asterisk records call records, and the simplistic nature of the GUI’s, it is often difficult to obtain truly useful data from these CDR tools.

Asternic has developed a plugin for FreePBX (also works with Elastix) that reformats all the CDR data into truly useful reports, such as by person, time of date, inbound, outbound, etc in more summary fashion than individual call-by-call (although that is still possible).  Overall it is more useful than the built-in CDR Reports tool.

Asternic CDR Reports

Asternic CDR Reports

For a detailed feature list and more screenshots, please visit. http://www.asternic.net/cdrreports/

Areski CDR Stats

The final add-on we will cover is another CDR statistic program, CDR Stats by Areski.  This is a not a plug-in for a GUI, but an entirely separate web GUI.  It has the ability to work not only with Asterisk, but with Freeswitch as well.  It covers not just pure call record reports and statistics, but can also monitor call traffic and send alerts for unusual patterns as well.  It can also “rate” calls (i.e. give a total billed cost for each call by entering the price plan you pay for minutes.  Overall it is possibly one of the best CDR stats programs available.

cdr-stats-dashboard

CDR Stats Dashboard

To view the complete feature list, as well as a live demo, visit http://www.cdr-stats.org/

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